Drought aid measure to pass separately from food stamp reforms

House Republican leaders dropped their efforts to tie drought aid for ranchers to the controversial billion-dollar farm bill, opting to take up separate packages in order to tackle some reform measures in the massive spending program.

Congress is expected to pass drought relief before they recess for the August break, and will take another stab at the five-year farm-spending package when they return in September.

“My priority remains to get a five-year farm bill on the books and put those policies in place, but the most pressing business before us is to provide disaster assistance to those producers impacted by the drought conditions who are currently exposed,” said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

The Senate passed the farm bill last month on a 65-34 vote, followed by the House Agriculture Committee that passed the measure on a 35-11 vote. However, Republican leaders hoped to avoid a floor showdown before the summer break and planned on passing a one-year extension of the farm aid that will expire Sept. 30.

However, conservative Republicans wanted to delay the vote until reforms could be made to the food stamp program that is expected to cost $80 billion a year — nearly 80 percent of the funding of the entire farm bill.